Monday, January 31, 2011

Story-A-Day #81: Jaws Breaker


JAWS BREAKER

The bubbles cascaded around him, a slow blast of air that tumbled towards the surface as he slowly rose with them. When he reached the surface, he blasted the salty water from his snorkel and lazily kicked his way through the warm Caribbean waters, relishing the heat of the sun.

He skimmed along the surface, then dove back down, his flippers propelling him speedily towards the conch he had spotted. He reached out and pulled it from the white sand of the ocean floor, releasing a cloud of dust that quickly filled with small, curious fish.

A large shadow darted quickly past and he rolled over to skim the surface. There was nothing there.

He dropped the shell, and kicked off the ocean floor towards the surface, and a fresh lungful of air. He had never felt so relaxed and at peace. He continued circling and diving like that for another hour, before deciding to head in towards shore. He scanned the beach through his mask and spotted his resort. Reoriented, he was about to set forth, when he spotted something that froze the very blood in his veins. A large grey fin had broken through the surface and was headed straight towards him.

Oh God, what was the rule? Play dead? Fight back?

He ducked beneath the surface and his fears were realized. A monster shark was headed right towards him, its jaws gaping in a hungry, sinister grimace. It was only a handful of metres away and closing fast. It had locked on to him, without a doubt. Ten feet. Five feet. He braced himself for the impact of those cold shredding teeth, then remembered something he had seen in a movie once.

The shark was just inches away, its dead black eyes scanning him the way the fat tourists at the resort scanned the dinner buffet.

He lashed out with his fists, a quick right hook, followed by two short left jabs. The shark stopped dead in its pursuit and for a moment, he thought he could see a look of conflict pass over its primeval face.

It hovered motionless before him, then turned and disappeared, a sleek grey missile in the tropical waters. He had won.

“Honey?” He looked up from the shelf of aquarium décor and found his wife surveying him with a playful smile on her face. “What are you punching?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he replied, “I was just thinking we’re about due for a vacation – maybe somewhere sunny?”

“That would be nice.”

It would be, and if he happened to see a shark? He’d show it who was boss.

Story-A-Day #80: Icing


ICING

There are pros and cons to the fluctuations in out weather. The pros of minus thirty-degree weather are that you aren’t likely to get much snow, and you aren’t likely to feel guilty for staying inside and hibernating. The cons are more numerous. You are liable to freeze, as are the pipes in your house, the birds in the tress, the car in your driveway, and even the moisture in the air.

When the weather does warm up, and we’re not even talking about above zero temperatures, there are plenty of pros and cons. On the plus side, you barely realize that it is as cold as it is. You can practically leave your toque and mittens at home. It’s a nice feeling. On the slightly more negative side, it usually means that there is going to be an abundance of snow, which means an abundance of shoveling and a severe shortage in space to fling the snowy white stuff. It also means that getting around is a hindrance. Warmer weather also creates ice, a terror on the roads, and an equal burden on your house.

As the heat passes through the roof, the snow starts to melt. This creates off flow, which drips and dribbles over the house like icing and eventually forms long, pointy stalactites of ice. These in turn, pose the risk of breaking off your house or office and impaling someone through the brain.

I once read a book of murder mystery stories and one of them described an icicle as the perfect weapon as the evidence would melt away. I believe that to be true. The ice will also run over anything outside your house and will freeze into a solidly slippery state over night. It will cover your porches, cars, and sometimes, even your outside lights.

Try to break that one off. Go on, I dare you.

You see the problem. That much icy weight threatens to rip the whole fixture right off the house. The bottom supports the top and the top anchors the bottom in a perfectly symbiotic relationship. Break the ice on either side and the equation lies ruined. One half cannot exist without the other.

That is the problem, and figuring out the solution is truly the icing on the cake.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Story-A-Day #79: Fishes


FISHES

It was easy to just lose track of time. He could spend hours just staring into the aquarium. It was the whole package.

The soft gurgle of flowing water from the filtration system was one thing. Hell, they made tranquility fountains for that very purpose, to create the soothing ambiance of flowing water. It was nice for sure.

There was also the undulating flow of of the plant life, the gentle, drifting, seductive dance as they rode the drifting waters.

Mostly though, it was the fish themselves. He would stare transfixed as they circled and looped and darted and dashed through the illuminated interior or the tank.

It was more than just the hypnotic movement of the brightly colored fish though. It was the zen like quality that they communicated through their beady unblinking eyes.

Hours of peaceful tranquility within a 120 gallon box of glass. And the glow of the nearby candles was a nice touch too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 28, 2011

Story-A-Day #78: Watcher


WATCHER

She hated the stark emptiness of the room. Every keystroke on the computer echoed hollowly through the open enclosure. Who builds a three-story funnel for a computer lab anyway? It didn’t make sense.

Still, she needed to finish her report and this was the only place she could since her stupid roommate had spilled lychee and rum slushee all over her lap top.

The one major benefit of her current predicament was that the lab was quiet. In fact, the whole campus was pretty quiet. She had only seen a handful of people on her walk over from the residences and the only other person in the lab was the woman from tech support.

She stared at the computer screen in front of her and wondered again why the stupid table wouldn’t do what it was supposed to be doing. She double checked the formulas and scratched her neck. It didn’t make any sense.

She leaned back in her chair and tilted her head backwards. For a moment, she thought she had seen someone peering down at her from the top floor. It had been a fleeting glimpse at best, almost as though the person up there had jumped backwards in order not to be seen. It was probably just her imagination playing tricks on her, a result of her frustration with the stupid formula.

She turned her attention back to the computer and focused once more on the stupid matrix. It was all there in front of her, but she just couldn’t get it to click. She decided that it might be best to pack it in fir the night so she saved the program to her USB stick and shut the terminal down.

As she made her way out of the computer lab and down the corridor, the feeling of being watched returned, like a trickle of fingers across the back of her neck. She glanced behind her, but the empty hall stretched away, deserted.

She picked up the pace, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable. She pushed open the metal door and stepped out into the blustery night. Snow swirled around her and she jogged lightly across the parking lot and towards the dorms.

She glanced over her shoulder again and skidded to a stop. A shadowy figure stood just outside the building, right next to the door she had just exited. She turned and fled, sprinting as fast as she could along the snow covered walkways, pushing herself hard through the dark patches and feeling only mild comfort in the pools of light that illuminated the way.

She reached her door and through it open, sliding wildly across the linoleum floor in her wet boots. She regained her balance and quickly slammed the inside door, making sure it was locked.

Through the small glass opening, she could see the deserted courtyard. There was no one out there.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Story-A-Day #77: Glazed Over



GLAZED OVER

There was a strange crackling coming from just outside the house. He yawned, stretching his arms out as far as they would go. He let his socked feet slide out beneath him and relished the tension that coursed through his taught muscles as he held his vitruvian pose. It was a great day to be alive.

He hopped back into an upright position, unlocked the front door of the house, and peered outside at the curious spectacle. Sometime during the night it had rained. And yet, they were in the middle of winter – curious. He kicked at the door a couple times and it finally cracked free of its encasement and swung out into the chilly morning.

His eyes had not deceived him – the world was in fact glazed over. He slid into his boots and stepped out onto the front step to get a closer look at the cedar that loomed over the driveway. Each branch and chilly little frond was encased in a thick sheet of ice. It was awesome!

He jumped back into the house and fried up a quick breakfast of bacon and eggs. He knocked it back quickly, and washed it down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Grabbing his towel on the way past the bedroom, the man quickly made his way to the washroom and jumped into a lukewarm shower. HE whistled a happy tune as he scrubbed away at his various nooks and crannies, then quickly toweled off and returned to the bedroom to get dressed: wool socks, boxer briefs, clean jeans, t-shirt, and big wool sweater./

Today was going to be epic.

He practically ran out to hall closet and got a little tangled up in his coat with the excitement. He paused just long enough and smacked himself in the forehead. He had almost forgotten the most important part!

He dashed down to the basement and rummaged around in a box under the stairs before making his triumphant return.

Finally, he pushed the door open again and surveyed the glazed wonderland of icy beauty. Laces tied tight, he was ready to go.

He walked sideways down the stairs, and with a great whoop of joy, skated off down the street, the blades slicing smooth, clean lines through the thickly glazed streets. He was invincible.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Story-A-Day #76: Saved


SAVED

She filled her coffee for the third time that morning and quietly walked back to her cubical. At her desk, she hit the send and receive button and watched as another seventeen emails appeared in her inbox. She spent the next five minutes sorting them into the correct folders, then switched back over to the blank Microsoft Word document that she had opened at the beginning of her day.

The cursor blinked malevolently on the screen, a perfect metronome for her lack of productivity. She typed a sentence quickly, a sudden burst of words that she hoped would gather momentum. She re-read the sentence, highlighted it with her mouse, and hit the delete key.

It was not a good day for inspiration. It was not a good day to be productive. In fact, it was a good day to not be doing much of anything. She was feeling blue, down for no apparent reason, and just couldn’t find the motivation she needed to get going.

She reached over and grabbed a tissue from the box on her desk and paused to examine the photo of her parents. They grinned out of the cheap dollar store frame at her and she involuntary smiled back before blowing her nose.

The tissue was bloody, a result of the dry winter weather wreaking havoc on her sinuses. That was probably part of the reason she was having such a hard time getting started. Her head felt like it was packed with fiberglass insulation. Everything from her neck up felt brittle and itchy and condensed. Even her knuckled were lined in white cracks of dryness.

She through the tissue into the wastebasket by her feet and returned her attention to the mocking cursor on her screen. Flash – flash – flash – flash. It was ruthless.

She scanned the office quickly. Tom and Rachel were having a flirt at the water cooler. Mark was punching buttons in confusion at the photocopier. She could hear the boss and a few other people in the room next to her desk discussing projections. It was business as usual for everyone except her, it seemed.

A shrill siren suddenly filled the air and everyone stopped what they were doing to look around in confusion.

“Fire,” was the eventual verdict and they all made their way towards the front door. Surely it was a false alarm. There was no way her day would be salvaged by an act of god, a god she incidentally didn’t believe in.

When they reached the parking lot, she realized that it was no act of god though. A cord plugged into a snow-covered socket in the side of the building was smoking heavily, a flickering tongue of flames, climbing slowly up the wall.

Some people were already dialing 911; others were throwing more snow onto the socket in an attempt to quell the flames. She pulled her sweater tighter around her and slowly slipped away. Who was she to argue with divine intervention?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Story-A-Day #75: Heron Pond


HERON POND

My world is a misleading one, dude. Sure on the surface, it seems all safe and tranquil, especially in the shallow waters near the shore. I’m not even kidding when I say this though: that’s where the danger lives man.

Still, I like it by the shore; the warmth from the sun is nice. A little further out, you can feel the cool water flowing in from the underground springs that feed this pond and even for a cold blooded creature like me, it’s a noticeable difference. Yeah, that sunshine is nice.

Still, the spring water keeps things fresh. There’s other ponds out there that get all skanky and covered in slime, but here, there’s enough movement to keep things clear. We’re lucky that way.

Still, it’s best not too get too comfortable, you know what I mean?

I’ll swim around all day, but the closer I get to the shore, to the delicious larvae and crayfish that hide out in the rocks, the closer I get to them. Death comes from above, man: they are the sentinels, evil long legged beasts that will pluck you right out of the water with one vicious stab.

They’re tricky, those birds. You can keep one eye on the surface all you want, but half the time, even if you do spot one, you’ll just end up thinking it’s a stump anyway. And when you get them against a blue sky, they’re that much harder to spot.

I know. It probably sounds like I’m just whining right now. I suppose I am to a degree, but still, it’s a simple life we fish live, and these damn blue herons just complicate things.

I miss the good old optimistic days where all we would do is try the best we can. You know, big fish eat the little ones, and so forth. There was a natural order to it all and then these big blue brutes flew in and threw it all into chaos.

I used to dart and dash around this pond. Hell, when the sun went down and there was still a soft glow in the sky during the summer months, I would jump right out of the water. Seriously dude. I’d do these crazy aerials and fill my face with flies. Those days were heaven, man.

Now you gotta watch out everywhere for their twiggy little legs and that cold flickering burst of instant death.

Still, things could be worse. We’ve got a healthy population here. I met this school a few days ago and they were telling me how they had migrated from a pond that tasted like iron. There was all this junk in it that had turned the water sour. Can you believe it? Those guys had it rough. Seriously, every one of them was this ugly grey colour and their scales were going all smooth and fleshy. They did not look good.

So I guess having a few herons to watch out for is a pretty mild concern. Plus, it keeps you sharp you know. You see the odd fluorescent worm bouncing along and you know it’s gonna end bad, but when you can barely see death coming… It’s kind of a buzz man!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Story-A-Day #74: Wind Down


WIND DOWN

Everything was quiet. Everything was still. He could hear the soft ticking of the clock on the dining room wall, and upon closer inspection, the dull hum of the refrigerator. It was blissful, and just what he needed after the craziness of the day.

He had gone from one meeting to the next all day long, mourning the fact that the stack of paperwork on his desk was left unattended. Some days it seemed like there just weren’t enough hours in the day. Not nearly enough on a day like today and a quick flip through his day planner didn’t show any sign of things letting up.

His final meeting had been a dinner one, so at least he had gotten a good meal out of it. A nice piece salmon served on a cedar plank with rice and steamed vegetables. The meeting had been a long one and his mind was already shutting down by the time he greeted the client, but they had managed to cover a lot of ground and the results had been worthwhile. He secured the contract, worth just shy of $20,000, and dinner had been on the client.

He grabbed a half finished bottle of red wine from the counter and poured himself a glass. It had gone a little pungent since the weekend, but it was by no means off. He took a sip and sat down at one of the barstools that abutted the marble countertop in the kitchen.

The small spotlights above illuminated the counter and he took a moment to freshen up the plant with a bit of water. The clock on the microwave flashed out a pulsating blue 12:00 into the kitchen. He would reset it before bed.

A big gulp finished off his wine and he drained the rest of the bottle into his glass before pulling out his iPhone. He slid his thumb across the bottom of the screen and tapped on the email icon. For the next ten minutes, he got caught up on what had been going on at the office today. It had been a busy one, but there were very few fires to put out. That was a bit of a relief.

He set the phone on the counter and watched as the screen flicked over to black. He felt like he should be doing some catch up work. Maybe even having a bath or reading the newspaper. There was a long list of things he could be, and perhaps should be, doing, but for now, he was happy just quietly sipping on his wine and staring into the kitchen. It was perfectly serene and the ideal way to wind down after a long day.

He eyed an opened bottle of wine on the counter. One last glass and he would call it a day. The clock on the wall ticked its perfectly timed agreement.

Story-A-Day #73: Out There


OUT THERE

The house creaked and moaned in the cold. She could almost feel the cool floorboards shifting beneath her feet, as though the entire house was about to slide off into the icy night.

The drapes by the window fluttered in the blasting heat of the forced air furnace, a shimmering specter in front of the window. She walked down the narrow hallway, past the photos of her family and friends that lined the walls, and into the washroom. She wasn’t optimistic, but she thought she would try the faucet again.

When she had returned from work around dinnertime, she realized that there was no water. She had called a maintenance crew immediately and they had arrived within a half hour, only to tell her that there was not much they could do. They had heated the pipes at the exterior intake, and followed the frosty lengths along as far as they could, but without tearing down walls and ceilings, they had reached an impasse.

Which was extremely unfortunate, because she really longed for a soothing soak in the tub. She had cranked the thermostat up as high as it would go, and hoped that that would do the trick. A loud cracking sound echoed through the house again, and she flinched.

She went back into the bedroom to change into something a little more comfortable. It was over 30 degrees Celsius in the house now and her tights and bulky sweater were a bit much. She slid into a pair of shorts and a halter-top and started back towards the bedroom door. She paused, the doorknob just out of reach, and glanced back towards the bedroom window.

The drapes fluttered softly in the hushed whisper of the furnace. The house cracked again and an involuntary yelp of surprise slipped from her mouth.

She quickly crossed the bedroom and paused at the window. She gathered her wits and gingerly parted the drapes.

He was still standing there, an ominous shape illuminated ever so slightly by the lamppost that glowed in her yard. He had been out there for over three hours now, standing motionless, clearly unperturbed by the freezing temperatures.

She let the drapes drift back together and made her way out to the washroom again. She would try the faucet one last time, despite the fact that she already knew it was turned to the on position, then call the police; and possibly a plumber. She couldn’t go much longer without water.

She braced herself, then made her way to the small bedroom down the hall that she had turned into an office. She picked up the phone and waited for the dial tone.

The man might not be a threat; had not made any movements towards the house, or any threatening gestures, but it was still disconcerting knowing that there was someone out there watching her house. Besides, it was not safe to be out in weather like this. She would call the police and put an end to this madness once and for all.

She was about to dial the first number when the phone went dead.

Story-A-Day #72: At Fault


AT FAULT

It was a beautiful winter morning, cool and crisp. The sun had just crept up over the horizon, bathing the early morning sky in a swirling tempest of pinks, peaches and magentas. It was just cold enough that the air was filled with frost adding an ethereal shine to the air.

I actually whistled as I made my way to work, even though the simple act of puckering my winter-dry lips threatened to crack them into a million pieces. I don’t know if it was something in the air, or whether I had slept better than usual the night before, but I was in a pretty good mood. There was an extra little spring to my step and it felt nice. It can become pretty easy to get sucked down into the doldrums when the winter blues set in – not enough vitamin D, hibernation tendencies, aching joints; all good reason to hide away for six months of the year.

I was just making my way across the parking lot when I felt the first low grumble. It felt like a big truck passing by, which was entirely likely and no reason to really register it. When the second rumble hit a few seconds later, it was definitely not a truck. The ground shook beneath me with such force that I almost lost my footing.

Just outside the entrance to the building I could see a couple women smoking, Sandra from Shipping and Receiving and another woman I didn’t recognize. They lurched sideways and a large fireball shot into the sky next to them. Sandra tumbled sideways, landing awkwardly in front of the door.

It took me a moment to regain my composure, then I ran towards the door. Smoke billowed up from a gaping hole next to them and the air was cacophonous with the honking of car horns; security systems gone wild.

Something was wrong, very wrong. I helped Sandra to her feet and guided the two women away from the door and out into the parking lot. Sandra was limping; streams of tears running down her face.

Another rumbled sounded and the windows at the east end of the building blew outwards into the parking lot. It didn’t take long before all hell broke loose. The doors burst open and a flow of screaming people flooded into the parking lot.

There were two more aftershocks before Emergency Services. By the time they did arrive, the parking lot was packed with shivering employees and ample conjecture as to what had happened. It was a terrorist attack (not likely due to the inconsequential nature of our business). It was an earthquake (possible, but again not likely due the localization at our building). There had been an infrastructure failure in the gas tanks or furnace in the basement (Possible, although no one would no until the crews could get in and do an assessment).

It was clear that the answers would present themselves in time. For now though, my only priority was to make sure that everyone was okay, and that those without coats were able to keep warm.

I didn’t do this so that people would get hurt.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Story-A-Day #71: Mission Complete


MISSION COMPLETE

They walked along the cobbled path with purpose. They were men on a mission, six friends who had just pulled off the biggest job of their lives.

It was a muggy day, and at least half of them were still feeling the effects of too much scotch and over-sized cohibas from the night before, but they were focused. It had been a solid celebration, and duly earned.

Still buzzing from their success, they had started the day off at the beach with a bit of fun in the sun. They floated in the warm salty ocean for a bit, tossed a football back and forth, then finally retreated to the hot white beach where they lounged on the plastic recliners. They had earned the break.

When the sun reached its zenith, they retreated to the pool area for a few cervezas under the shade of the large grass umbrellas. After a quick lunch of cold cuts and fresh fruit in the main restaurant, they jumped in the pool and made their way over to the swim up bar. They spent the next couple hours chatting with a group of girls from Sweden. There were six of them as well, all blondes and all beautiful, tall and lean. Their pale Nordic flesh glowed hot pink in the afternoon sun.

Things could not have worked out any better for the guys. In fact, they seemed to be getting better with every passing moment. Around dinnertime, they made plans to meet up with the girls in the disco later that might and excused themselves. Back in their rooms, they showered, applied some aloe, and slipped into their evening attire.

As darkness settled over the resort, they made their way through the courtyard to the front gate of the resort. A large van sat idling out near the busy street and they all climbed in. The driver nodded and pulled out into the speeding traffic. Half an hour later, in an unfamiliar part of town, the van pulled over and the driver indicated an open door nearby. A soft yellow light spilled out into the street.

The six men climbed out of the van and walked towards the opening. This would either go very smoothly, or very wrong. They hoped it would be the former. They were greeted by a stocky man in a white cotton suit as the stepped into the doorway. A large automatic weapon was slung casually over his shoulder.

He motioned to a nearby table where a smaller, weasel of a man was sitting. One of the men stepped forward and placed a briefcase on the table and slid it across to the man. He picked up the case and examined the contents. A clock on the wall ticked loudly through the room, counting off the interminable seconds. Finally, an unnatural looking smile spread across the man’s face.

“You done good boys,” he mumbled. “Is too bad because I was kind of looking forward to killing you. You should probably be leaving our country soon. If I happened to find out you were still around, say in two days, I might not be so pleased.”

They nodded solemnly and quickly exited to the waiting van. The driver nodded at them and pulled away from the curb. A moment later, a loud explosion rocked the night. They turned and peered out the rear window of the van. A large fireball was slowly fading into the night sky above the charred husk of the building they had just left.

It would be another great night. There were six beautiful women waiting for them at the resort and they had officially completed their mission.

“Well done,” the driver finally offered. “The boss will be pleased.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Story-A-Day #70: The Report


THE REPORT

I froze. Literally first, as the cold morning air filled my lungs and crackled my flesh, and figuratively second as it dawned on me that my report was sitting on the dining room table. I turned and my eyes followed my footprints back across the driveway and up the stairs to the entrance to my house.

The grating roar of a snowplow came to me from the busy thoroughfare that crossed the end of my somewhat quieter street. In my mind, I could see the report clearly, a pristine piece of work that I had slaved over until nearly four o’clock in the morning. It was twenty-three pages of perfectly crafted language in a 12pt. Times New Roman font. It represented my future, a masterpiece; and it was sitting on the table, next to a bowl of shiny Granny Smith apples.

It was not supposed to be there. It was supposed to be in the shoulder bag that was now crinkling my winter coat and rubbing against my tender, ice-cold hip. Still frozen in position at the end of the driveway, my eyes followed my footprints back to the door I had exited seconds ago and pictured the report sitting there on the table, right where I had intentionally left it the night before so I would not forget it. It had seemed like a wise plan, although hindsight had proven it flawed in execution.

I was still groggy from a night of big thinking and too little sleep, so I guess I wasn’t quite right when I stepped out into the cold, January morning. A better plan would have been to place the report in my bag last night, instead of leaving it on the table. My bag was something I never left behind; it was an instinctive extension of whom I was when I left for work each morning.

Begrudgingly, I made my way back up the driveway and to the door. I pulled off my mittens and reached into the left pocket of my jacket, the one where I always placed my house keys. I fumbled around the throat lozenges and couple packs of gum and realized that there was no hiding place for my keys in that soft, cottony enclosure.

I frowned, an awkward gesture for my already frozen visage, and retraced my steps once again. Had the keys fallen out of my pocket as I left the house? It was a possibility.

I scanned the ground for a telltale hint of silver and bronze. No keys.

Unbidden, the report flashed back into my mind. My masterpiece, forgotten on the table; wantonly abandoned after the night of brilliant mental bonding we had shared. It was sitting there, begging me for acknowledgment, and I realized now, that it was not alone. I quickly jogged up the stairs and peered through the small window in the thick wooden inner door.

The report was still on the table, next to the bowl of shiny apples – exactly where I had placed it with loving good intent. Next to it, I could see my keys, splayed out like a reckless drunk after a long night of drinking.

This was not a good start to my day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Story-A-Day #69: Ice Road


ICE ROAD

Her breath formed icy crystals with every exhalation. It was cold, freezing cold. She imagined it was cold enough that if she threw a glass of water into the air, it would be ice before it hit the ground.

Of course, she didn’t have a glass of water. Worse still, she was running low and gas and her car was stuck.

She pulled out her cell phone again and slid her finger across the screen. No signal. She dialed a number anyway, but it would not connect. She climbed back into her car and hovered her hands in front of the heater, warming her chilled fingers.

The deer had come out of nowhere, leaping over the snow bank and dashing straight at her car. It ran straight into the driver’s side door and panicked, she had over-steered into the snow bank where she had been stuck now for the past three hours.

She looked at the carcass on the road behind her. A small pool of blood had formed on the icy white road next to it. It had been steaming at first, as the deer twitched through its final moments of life. There was no steam now, and no signs of life.

Sickened, she adjusted the mirror away from the grizzly site. The red warning light on the dash indicating her fuel levels was no more comforting than her averted gaze from the dead deer.

She didn’t no what to do. Three hours in the middle of nowhere and not a single car had passed by. It was a whole new vision of desolate out here. Wisps of frosty snow snaked along the length of highway, the only sign of life she had seen since the deer’s final hoof twitch.

She leaned back in her chair and pounded her fists on the steering wheel in frustration. The lights dimmed on the dash and she felt a small shuddered pass through the seat. There was a final ding and the car sputtered to a halt. She was officially out of gas.

The sun was slowly sinking into the horizon ahead of her, which meant that it was going to get much colder, much quicker now. She closed her eyes for a moment, digging deep within for a sudden inspiration as to what she could do. Nothing.

There was nothing she could do. She opened her eyes and caught a shining glimpse cresting the farthest point of the road. Was it possible? Another car?

She watched as the glint slowly revealed itself before the backdrop of the setting sun. It was a car! She jumped out of her car, ecstatic, and started waving her arms. As the car drew nearer she could hear the comforting roar of the engine. She was saved.

The car mounted the last hill and sped towards her, slowly easing up as the driver noticed her frantically waving arms. As it neared, a sudden flash of tawny brown erupted out of the copse of evergreens and over the bank next to the highway.

The vehicle swerved to avoid the deer and slowly started spinning out of control. She watched, defeated and paralyzed by fear, as the car sped towards her like an out of control top. The impact was horrendous.

The driver of the car stared into his rear view mirror at the prone form of the woman lying in the road behind him. A small steaming pool of blood was forming next to her head and a deer loomed over her. There is something wrong about that, the man thought, and then passed out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Story-A-Day #68: Tunguska


TUNGUSKA

I enjoy old technology – Atari game consoles, vintage phones, cell phone from the ‘80s. They are fun little relics that show us how quickly we are developing as a society. I recently had the good fortune of stumbling upon an old Commodore PET computer, quite the advanced piece of technology for the late 1970s. I wasn’t sure that there was anything of value – besides the good laugh I received at the home page screen notification of 7,167 Bytes of available memory. Yes, BYTES. That’s less that this post will take. While messing around with some BASIC coding (talk about digging through the old mind vault), I found a rather interesting file tucked away in a rather obscure string of data. It was written in Russian, but I had it translated…

January 18, 1982. 22:17 KRAT

It has been a little more than seventy years since the event occurred. It remained mostly off-the-record in for a couple decades despite thoroughly decimating the lands that surrounded the Podkamennaya Tunguska River. It was an unexplainable, violent explosion that occurred at approximately 7:14am on June 30, 1908.

What that must have been like? Some eyewitnesses described a tear in the sky, others a bright blue streak, almost as bright as the sun itself, that burnt a path across the early morning sky. Then there was the explosion.

80 million trees were flattened over an area of 2,150 square kilometers. People for miles around felt the impact and those close to the impact were knocked to the ground or thrown into the air. Some of them had their hair singed by a wave of unexplainable heat.

Initial scientific hypotheses chalked it up to a meteoric impact, but there were no craters to be found. Following theories attributed the blast area to the airburst of a meteoroid 6-10 kilometres above the earth’s surface.

We have set up this outpost now based on recent findings of Senior Lieutenant Igor Aisenyev, who is in charge of this outpost. He has found evidence in support of the potential for an extraterrestrial object that skipped through this region causing the devastation. As lead researcher, it is my role to ascertain the likelihood of this scenario. I have posited to the Senior Lieutenant that this scenario is entirely possible and that the resultant point of impact, according to my initial research, would be somewhere in the Canadian Arctic.

I look forward to solving this great mystery for Mother Russia. It will be a long process, but the answer is there for us to discover.

Warrant Officer
Vladimir Balakirev

Pretty weird stuff. I’ve heard of Tunguska, but I have no idea what any of the rest of it means, or why it was on this old PET. I’d like to look into this a little deeper, but first I need to figure out how to get Jumpman working.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Story-A-Day #67: Forest Trail


FOREST TRAIL

She knew she was dreaming, but she was okay with that. It was a pleasant dream: tranquil and lucid. She was walking through a forest, beneath a translucent lemon-lime canopy of spring leaves, the sun filtering through and bathing the world in warm patches of light.

She gazed down at her feet as she walked along the trail. The rich brown sand of the path was flecked with golden sparkles of iron pyrite, a dusting of fool’s gold to guide her along. The trail was lined with scrub, tiny maple seedlings and ferns that slowly unfurled towards the light.

The trees parted and she entered a clearing, the path stretching through its centre and up a gentle slope on the other side. She past through the swaying grasses, Indian paintbrushes and horse-tails brushing against her shins. Bird song filled the air and the dull drone of a cicada denounced the heat of the afternoon. She passed a clump of sycamore trees, the fuzzy red fruit a stark contrast against the soft greens of the day.

In the distance, she could hear a creek gurgling and a smile spread slowly across her face. She quickly scaled the small slope, entering back into the comfortable embrace of the forest. It was a spectacular afternoon filled with promise and peace.

She reached the creek a few moments later and sat down on its bank where she quickly pulled off her shoes and socks. The cool water trickled around her feet and she walked slowly along the creek, splashing gently as she picked her way through the rocky bottom.

A sudden roar built up around her and she peered skywards, just in time to see the jet passing by above the trees, the noise a jarring intrusion in the tranquility of her dream. The world shuddered briefly and she awoke, disjointed and confused.

She was in bed and she remembered then that she had been dreaming. The clock read 6:34. Her alarm would go off in just over ten minutes so she decided she would get up now. She slid out of the warm cocoon of her duvet and walked into the bathroom. The glaring fluorescent light made her wince and she peered out the small window next to the toilet.

The world outside was dark, buried under heavy mounds of snow. There was at least another two months of winter left. She would wait it out and be happy when spring finally made its triumphant return.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Story-A-Day #66: Flakes


FLAKES

She surveyed their work from the past few hours and turned towards her older brother, an approving smile smeared across her face.

"Hey guys, this is the perfect place," a voice called out from the other end of the yard. "There's a big pile here already!"

She turned towards her other brother, this one younger, and gave him an awkward thumbs up with her mitten sheathed hand. An intricate network of trails stretched out between them. They had been working on the maze for a few hours now, digging cross cut trails through their backyard. It was the perfect way to spend a snowy afternoon.

She followed her brother through the maze and rejoined her younger brother. Together, the three of them surveyed the large mound of snow.

It would be perfect. There was a ton of snow and they would easily be able to carve out the tunnels they wanted to complete the maze with. What was a maze without a goal after all. It was just a bunch of paths.

They spent the next hour and a half digging into the mound and when they finished, they surveyed the results proudly.

Everything was perfect. The trails, the tunnels, and the carefully constructed shoot down the stairs. She walked over to the icy slide and flung herself down. She landed with a laugh in the lower level of the backyard and waves at her mum through the kitchen window.

Their hot chocolate would be ready now. She stepped aside just as her brothers landed in a heap next to her.

It was break time anyway.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Story-A-Day #65: Solo


SOLO

The latest jams kicked out over the sound system, oddly out of place dance tracks in the empty confines of the restaurant.

He had placed his order a few minutes before and had a cool bottle of Tsing Tao before him. He took a slow sip and examined the label. Brewed and bottled in China; an anomaly amongst import beers these days. Sapporo, one of his favorites, was actually brewed and bottled by the Sleeman Brewing Company. A sign of the times to be sure.

He was feeling a little lonely on this particular night, but not all that anxious for company either. It was nice being alone, sitting in this restaurant with just the staff.

He could smell his meal cooking in the kitchen, a curry chicken dish. It smelled promising, with just the right amount of heat. His mouth was watering already.

One day soon, he would bring a date here, but for now he was content just having a little time to himself.

His waitress entered the dining area, a sizzling plate of curry chicken in her hands. He greeted her with a warm smile, and thanked her for the food.

This night was just what he needed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 14, 2011

Story-A-Day #64: No Tan Diferentes


NO TAN DIFERENTES

A light rain fell over Havana. It was typical for the time of year and brought a much needed respite to the day’s work. They were a small crew, only four men really, but they were hard workers. They didn’t really have a choice – the money in construction was good, and a failure to perform meant a demotion to a less prosperous position. Such was the system.

They were on the third flood of the building, right in the historic heart of the Cuban capital, and that was where the building now ended. There had been a fourth floor at one point, but it had been blown off during the fighting. Their job was to rebuild, part of the slow gentrification process afforded by the tourist trade.

It was difficult work cutting through the old steel girders and rebar and smoothing off the rough, pitted edges of concrete to facilitate the addition that would follow. He wiped an arm across his brow and smiled at Miguel who had just announced a quick siesta.

Whistling a slow salsa, Juan walked to the front of the building with the rest of the crew and leaned on what was left of the windowsill, surveying the street below. Tourists wandered two and fro, mingling with the citizens of Havana. A large coach passed by and Juan wondered about the people within it. Where had they come from? What were their impressions? How much better were their lives back home than the one Juan and his family had here? He smiled and waved.

The coach lumbered through the ancient streets of old Havana, crawling along so the guide could point out key locations and landmarks. John relished the cool breeze fluttering up from the air conditioning vent next to him.

Havana was a great city, but a tragic one as well. They had been driving around for the better part of the morning and it had soon become to John that the majesty of this city had faded. It was a city of history, but unlike the European capitals he had visited, the glory of Havana had long since faded. He could still see the potential underneath the grime and corrosion, and it only reinforced how far Cuba had fallen.

He wondered how much of it was a result of the political system. People were assigned jobs in this country, essentially the path their lives would take was dictated to them by the people in control. John wondered who told the people in control that that would be their role, and lot in life.

The bus slowly rolled past an old bombed out building and John craned his neck upward to look at the crew of workers who stood in the open air of the gutted third floor. He wondered where the workers had come from and whether they lived nearby? What were their impressions of all the damn tourists and their money? How different were their lives, families and quality of life compared to the one John enjoyed back home?

One of the workers smiled and waved and John waved back. People were the same everywhere, working hard and trying to make enough to put clothes on their back and food on the table. A knowing look passed between John and the worker above.

They were not that different.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Story-A-Day #63: Crash and Burn


CRASH AND BURN

His boots cut a swath through the snow leaving two squiggling trails behind him on the surface of the icy road. He came to a rest just shy of twenty feet later, a crooked smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

It was a hell of a night, a blustery mess of winter. Most people had enough common sense to keep to the confines of their homes, but he had places to be and people to see. Crouching slightly, he took a few long strides forward, then slid another twenty feet. It was perfect weather for a slide around, which was great fun right now, although ten minutes earlier, a little less so.

He had been riding shotgun in a small sedan, a fiery redhead behind the wheel. She cursed and swore like a sailor, pounding her fist furiously on the steering wheel and dash as the modest vehicle struggled to find traction on the increasingly impassable roads.

“You’re an idiot,” she bellowed out over the blaring rock music.

He wasn’t sure if she was talking to him, one of the two drunks slouched in the backseat, the car, or the weather itself. He glanced over at her. Her emerald eyes gleamed in the dim glow from the dash, focused with laser intensity on the road before them. Her alabaster skin almost glowed in the night, in perfect contrast against blood orange hair that was perfectly framed by a fuzzy green toque. He didn’t really care if she was talking to him. He was in love.

They were going to drop the drunks off at another party, then head over to his place for a few quite hours together. Tonight was going to be the night. Then they crashed.

He felt his feet wobble dangerously beneath him and barely regained his composure. He needed a shovel and he needed one quick. He scanned the driveways of the houses lining the street, desperately seeking a tool to dig the car from its snowy crypt.

She had lost traction on a corner and crashed into a snow bank. It was not serious by any means, but the longer he delayed, the less chance he had of finally sealing the deal. He felt like a bit of an asshole thinking this way, but he really, really, REALLY liked her. Like, a lot.

Eureka! A large snow scoop leaned against the deck of a nearby house. He bolted up the driveway, grabbed the shovel, and ran back to the road. He jumped into the scoop and rode it down the gentle hill like a toboggan. It was not too late to salvage the evening.

He could see the car at the top of the next rise, its red taillights illuminating the street. He would dig the car out, be the hero, and reap the rewards. He was so nervous he could puke.

He slid up to the side of the car and brandished the shovel proudly. “I got it!”

He spent the next forty minutes digging out around the car before finally realizing that it was not going anywhere. He had cleared all the way around, but the underside of the car was packed with snow. Worse still, although she was not even giving it any gas, the tires were turning in lazy circles on the icy surface beneath them.

They were not going anywhere. He leaned his head into the passenger side door and broke the bad news.

“”I told you I didn’t want to drive in this crap,” she grumbled.

“We can still go to my place,” he said, wincing at the pleading tone of his voice. “I’ll come back in the morning and dig it out.”

“And how will I get home?”

“You can spend the night?”

“I’m sixteen-freaking-years-old! My parents would kill me. They’re going to already!””

Crash. And. Burn. He loved her more than ever. The crooked smile slowly spread across his face as he realized his magic night of fun was over. He was overcome with an odd sense of relief. Teenage love was funny that way.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Story-A-Day #62: Wave


WAVE

It was one of those perfect summer days. The sun beamed down brightly, basking the world in its warm glow and a sharp, warm wind rustled through the trees. He wandered along the shoreline and watched the seagulls hovering above, motionlessly adrift against the wind.

The waves crashed into the rocky shore filling the air with misty plumes of water. He relished the cool on his skin. He had learned to appreciate the innocent simplicity of this routine, and his underlying reason for repeating the same journey every day.

In the distance, just around the point, he could see her. She was standing motionless in the same place she always stood and despite the majestic show that Mother Nature was putting on, her lithe form was enticing enough to mute everything around her. He crouched down behind a large pile of rocks and watched her.

There was an ethereal quality to her, a palpably winsome disregard of her surroundings. She stood erect, her perfect posture facing out over the water. Even from this distance, he could tell her eyes were closed, shielded from the glare of the sun and the force of the wind.

She was curvy but not voluptuous, the smooth lines of her hips highlighted beneath the sheer white shift draped around her. He could just make out the hint of colour beneath that betrayed her bikini.

She stood motionless, a perfect statue out on the point. Her long blonde hair flowed out behind her in the wind. He felt his breath catch in his throat as she slowly slid out of the shift. It drifted away from her and snagged in a nearby bush and she didn’t turn to see.

Her smooth skin glistened in mid-afternoon sun and he marveled at the fluidity of her movements as she stepped gingerly towards the water. She truly was perfection and he found himself once more dealing with a feeling that was not entirely unlike love.

Her routine remained unchanged over the weeks and he leaned back against a gleaming white birch to await her return. He was not disappointed when 20 minutes later, as anticipated, she resurfaced and returned to her position on the point. She sat almost as still as she had stood, slender arms wrapped around equally slender legs that were pulled up against her chest.

He longed to be part of that embrace, but knew that he would venture no closer than he had already. She might be the entire focus of his lakeside wanderings, his sole reason for returning day-after-day; but in her world, he did not even exist.

She stood then, in a sudden, fluid motion, and turned to face him across the choppy water. She stood there for a moment, her gaze boring straight through him, and then she did something utterly unexpected: She waved.

It was a moment of pure perfection.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Story-A-Day #61: The Creek


THE CREEK

When he was seven, he caught a salamander and kept it as a pet in an empty aquarium for almost two months. He would spend hours holding it, the smooth slippery skin a marvel in his young hands and the vibrant yellow spots an endless source of fascination. He had named it Sam and he had treated it well. The salamander became a good friend for a while and when the winter started its approach, he dreaded the day he would have to set his new friend free.

He had been young, but he was also smart enough to know that salamanders were amphibians, like frogs, and that when the lakes and rivers froze over, the salamanders went to sleep for the winter. He was clever like that, even as a young boy. Still, the pain of pending separation was one that loomed over him in a dreadful way.

He eventually did release the salamander back into the wild, set it free in a creek that ran through the forest not far from his house. It was a difficult day and even though he tried not to, but he cried.

That was years ago now, an almost forgotten era of his life. What else did he remember from his seventh year? Not much. Mostly he had impressions of things that he may have done or that might have happened. He remembered the innocence and joy of cruising around the block on his first bicycle. He remembered hiking through the forest with his parents, his small hands tucked away safely in theirs. He remembered being terrified of ghosts and monsters in the night, and the awesome spectacle of a clear sky at night. He remembered a lot of things, but most of them in an impressionistic manner that was more about the feeling of the moment than a clear recollection.

The one thing he remembered vividly was the feeling of Sam the Salamander slipping out of his hand into the icy cold water of the creek on that cold November evening, his bright yellow spots disappearing behind a mask of tears.

Over the years, he would often revisit that creek and spend a few quiet moments mourning the loss of innocence with a wry grin on his face. Sam the Salamander had come to represent a simpler time before the confusion of adolescent and confounding perpetuity of adulthood. He had a great life, a loving family and a handful of close friends. He had business associates and acquaintances. He was a lifelong learner, always keen to pick up a new skill or discover a new area of interest. He had experienced true love, and he had done so more than once. He had traveled to all the places he wanted to see and he had found a place he was comfortable calling home,

And still, there were times during the year, usually at the outset of winter, where he would find himself wondering about Sam the Salamander. The average lifespan of a salamander was less than 20 years, and Sam was surely long gone, but he would often return to the creek and look for the telltale spots in the flowing water.

He never told anyone when he was going. He never stayed for too long. Sometimes he would puff on a cigarette and watch the plumes of smoke drift off through the trees. It was just a private moment between him and an old friend, one that allowed him to reflect upon a simpler, better time.

Sometimes, as he stared down into the icy waters, he imagined two hooded eyes peering back up at him. He could almost see Sam down there, a hint of yellow in the darkness, and imagined the salamander looking up at him, thinking about the good old days.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Story-A-Day #60: Captive


CAPTIVE

Cursed infidels. For twelve years I have been their prisoner, forcibly confined in this ridiculously cluttered place they call “home”. They put out crunchy pellets of gruel for me twice a day and expect me to indulge their shallow need for companionship for the effort. Unlikely.

In the days of the Egyptians, my kind was revered. We were gods amongst men. What the hell went wrong?

When I first arrived here, it seemed like this could be a good place to be. I didn’t know any better of course, but I had a roof over my head and they seemed to be going out of their way to be nice. That’s when the subjugation started. They forced me to chase after little foam balls and do tricks for them; they doped me up with drugs so that I developed an addition to their “catnip”.

That was the beginning of the end for me.

Before long they were tying me up to a pole in their backyard. I guess every prisoner eventually get some time in the yard, but it was humiliating. The squirrels and chipmunks would dance around me, taunting and chattering like the moronic buffoons they are. Every now and then I would get lucky and catch one in my teeth. The warmth of their blood was my only comfort.

There is a second prison we travel to in the summer months and this is where the most cruel and unusual punishment occurs. When we are down in that desolate place surrounded by trees, they actually let me wander free. At first I thought they had made a mistake; that my chance was upon me. Then I realized the true nefariousness of these dark rulers. There were beasts in those woods, giant tawny horned monsters, shrill masked bandits and more, that maintained sentry. I was no more free there than I was within the cold walls of my usual prison.

I am resigned to my fate now. This is no life for a regal feline but it is the life I have been allotted.

I allow them to put lay dirty hands upon me. I allow them to scratch behind my ears and feed me their crunchy niblets. I allow them to exist because it is easier than killing them outright. If I were to do so, and I could quite simply, I assure you, then I would not only be trapped, but the few amenities that I do receive would cease.

I would still have to foul myself in that horrid box of sand, but without my captors, I would soon run out of clean corners to scratch in to. I would have no food. The odd moments of grooming that I do receive, while torturous, would also cease.

My life of sedentary lethargy has lead me to count on them for these things and more. No doubt part of their original master plan. What the foolish wardens do not realize is that I have turned the tables and am quietly subjugating them now.

I can sit here in this bag and all the things I could ever desire will be placed before me. It goes to show that we have earned our place on the throne and rightfully deserve the title of King of the Jungle. I would laugh right now, but there is a tickle in my throat. If I meow for long enough, they will eventually place a fresh bowl of water next to my food.

And maybe even a sprinkle of catnip. I’m feeling a bit on edge…

Story-A-Day #59: Worms


WORMS

There were thousands of worms. She had never seen so many worms in her life. They were squiggling and writhing everywhere, which in normal circumstances would have been alarming, but it was the dead of winter. There should not by any worms in the winter.

She walked gingerly along her driveway, carefully stepping over the piles of worms. What would cause something like this? A couple nights ago, she had noticed a different quality to the sunset, a spattering of colours like those in a bruise. It had been weird, but wouldn’t likely be the cause of this.

From the end of her driveway, she scanned the street. It was just as she had suspected: there were mounds of writhing worms lining the street in either direction. They weren’t your average dew worms either. A nearby telephone pole had a worm coiled around its base that must have been close to five feet long and three inched in diameter.

She shuddered involuntarily.

She made her way back up the driveway, cautiously sidestepping around the worms, and stepped back into her house. She turned on the television and flipped through the channels. It seemed like a newsworthy event, so maybe she could learn a little more about what exactly was going on.

Game shows, arrogant doctors “fixing” people, and some paid programming. There was nothing on the news channels.

She finally checked the Weather Network. When she was younger she remembered hearing stories about frogs and fish falling from the sky – apparently they would get sucked up by waterspouts and dropped miles away from where they began. There was a blizzard on the eastern seaboard, and thunder in the west. Nothing here in the middle though, and now that she thought about it, a waterspout couldn’t happen on a frozen lake.

She didn’t have a clue as to where the worms had come from, but she knew without a doubt that it would be a good year for ice fishing.

She pulled on her coat and boots, slid on her mittens and stepped back outside. Something needed to be done. She grabbed her snow shovel, the one shaped like a plow, and started clearing the driveway.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Story-A-Day #58: Bomb



BOMB

A low-flying jet screamed by overhead, ripping a wake through the clouds and tearing a new hole in the sound barrier.

I've been told that this city was in the top ten on the Soviet hit list during the Cold War. I guess it's plausible.

We've got the military base, a pretty big deal back I the day, even though most of it has been shut down since those days of paranoia. There's also "The Hole", which used to be the premium security post buried under the pre-Cambrian rock of the Canadian Shield. If you take them for their word, it is bow just a hole.

It is quite the thing to realize that this mostly sleepy little community used to be so significant - and such a threat. We were the only thing standing between the mighty U.S.S.R. and the tenacious American superpower.

That's a wild thing to think about. There are still shrines scattered around the city to that storied past as well. Military jets like the Voodoo and Bomark missiles up on big cement pedestals. All that despite the fact that our city might as well be a DMZ compared to the halcyon '80s.

If you were to ask around, most people here would probably tell you that the base had been closed for years. Not technically true, although job well done for being so under-the-radar.

We're not the only thing that has changed though. The U.S. Is now waging war on the army they built to combat the reds and the U.S.S.R. dissolved.

This entire military history flooded confoundedly through me as I watched the jet. In the distance a gleaming object separated and dropped from the jet. A moment later, the ground beneath me leapt upward and my knees buckled. In the distance, a bright fireball mushroomed up from the horizon and all I could think was how weird it looked.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 7, 2011

Story-A-Day #57: Toxin


TOXIN

He knew that it was nighttime. It was dark and the streets glistened in the rain. He did not know what the date or time was, or even where he was. Something had happened, something bad. The more he tried to remember, the more his memories slipped away.

It was the same with his eyes. He was pretty sure he didn’t wear glasses, but he was having trouble focusing. It was almost like being underwater, everything was murky and rippled and the harder he tried to clear his vision, the more darkness encroached from the edges.

“Where’s my shoe?” he mumbled to himself, before realizing he was holding it in his hand.

There was an acidic vomit-like taste in his mouth. Something bad had definitely happened. A ghostly hint of a memory skirted through his mind. He was in an office, stumbling down a cubicle-lined corridor. He had to support himself against the wall. There was a woman in one of the cubicles and she shrank away from him as he passed.

“I’m not drunk,” he slurred, and stumbled along the corridor.

Where had that been? If it was his own office, or one where he frequently did business, he would have remembered the woman, or at the very least, the gaudy aspirational posters on the walls.

His briefcase…

He needed to find his briefcase. There were…papers in it, important ones. Top secret ones?

Am I a spy? He wondered. Maybe that was it. He was a spy and had been drugged by someone so they could steal his briefcase. It was the toxin that was affecting him this way. The question now was when was he at that office building and who was he there to see?

He wandered along the rain soaked boulevard, edgy and nervous. Fragmented pieces of his life were flitting through his mind and the result of knowing those pieces without context was even scarier than not knowing anything at all. He saw a handsome woman with neat blonde hair and two beautiful raven-haired twenty-something girls at a dining room table. His family? He saw a stern man in a highly decorated military uniform, his brow furrowed up to the close cropped grey hair on his head. His superior? He saw a sheaf of papers in a leather briefcase. They were labeled CONFIDENTIAL in bold red letters.

A loud screech filled the street behind him and swaying, he turned to see a black SUV rapidly approaching, its tires roaring on the wet pavement.

He stumbled into a nearby parking garage, tripping over his uncooperative leaden feet as a sudden feeling of dread washed over him. They had found him.

He shuffled down to the lower level, bouncing off the walls of the ramp, before finally collapsing against the cold cement wall between two cars. He could hear the engine purring as the SUV slowly prowled the garage like a shark circling its prey. He knew it was only a matter of time and when the headlights washed across the wall above him and his vision faded out again, he knew it was done. He could feel a string of drool dangling from his chin.

The car pulled to a stop in front of him, idling for an interminable period of time. Finally, the automatic window slid down smoothly and the cold metal barrel of a gun appeared out of the darkness to finish the job the toxin had started.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Story-A-Day #56: Bird Fall


BIRD FALL

From: unknown sender
Date: January, 6, 2011 3:42 AM
To: mikebhumble@gmail.com
Subject: Re: What do you know about the birds?

At this point, all I can tell you is that you are correct. Something is wrong. I know I promised details, but you will have to bear (bare?) with me until I do a little more research.

As you know by now, on December 30, approximately 100,000 drum fish went belly-up in the Arkansas River near Ozark. The following night, 5,000 blackbirds slammed down onto the roofs, mailboxes, and ground in nearby Beebe. They were traveling at full velocity. Experts are blaming the latter on fireworks-induced trauma and the former on potential disease.

It has also recently come to light that on January 4, 2011, 500 red-wing blackbirds perished together near Labarre, Louisiana and last night, nearly 100 jackdaws turned up dead on a street in Falköping Sweden. Cause and effect: power lines in Louisiana and fireworks again in Sweden. Several hundred birds were also found dead last week in the western part of Kentucky.

This is not a well-organized case of globalized ritual avian suicide. This is not a case of pollution, disease, genetic abnormalities, or birds simply being scared so badly by fireworks that they are actually falling from the skies. The truth is simple.

Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to explain it to you at this time.

You don’t know who I am, but you do know who I work for, so when I tell you that I am in a position to be able to understand certain things better than others, I hope you will trust me.

You will recall the lunar eclipse of December 21, 2010? I am assured that it was a magical and rare occurrence by all accounts. Unbeknownst to most, that particular celestial event also coincided with the successful completion of a mining operation located on Axel Heiberg Island, about 900 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.

It was not a normal digging operation by any means. The self-contained facility was practically a city. You can find more information here. I received a report from an insider we had placed on the site saying they were about to breach the object. They went offline a few hours later and unfortunately that is all I can tell you for now.

I ask that you keep this in the strictest of confidence and will be in touch again once I know more. For now though, you should know that this is only the beginning. Scientia potestas est.

Take care.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Story-A-Day #55: Phoenix


PHOENIX

The true miracle of evolution was the advent of consciousness; an undeniable truth as our final epochal era draws to a close and consciousness is all we have left.

There are no cities, no forests, no oceans, and no Gods. All that remains is a world enflamed. It’s fitting, our entire cyclical existence began with a spark and a bang.

When there were still humans and books, they predicted the end of days: global warming, nuclear Armageddon, plagues, viruses, societal collapse, the end. It’s quaint now, to reflect upon those antiquated notions of the end, those long extinct eras of conceit where the life forms of the time believed they had control over their destinies. I suppose that’s where the concept of divinity and intervention formed but I now know we were just part of a cycle.

I look around as this burning world forms a new sun, drawing in a fresh orbit of floating rock. There’s no atmosphere, no oxygen to breathe, and yet here I am, a final conscious piece of our evolutionary story.

It is my destiny to perform this one last leap of evolution. There was another like me but she is no more. Her remains drift nearby, a translucent splash of genetic matter sinking back into the primordial ooze we came from. She was a mitotic fraction of my whole, and now she is nothing.

I am the end of this existence, but out there amongst those drifting rocks, a new world will form. It might be different than this place we called Earth, but it will serve a similar function. Life will form, evolve, develop, and perhaps most importantly, create. That is, after all, what life is about.

Life will start fresh with a single cell and in the end, it will end with another like me, only so we can start anew. I am the passer of the torch whose final breath becomes the harbinger of the next life, a supernova to begin the whole process anew.

Ashes to ashes…

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Story-A-Day #54: Wasting Away


WASTING AWAY

I know you all like to complain about how you are wasting away when the weather gets warm. You go on your fancy tropical vacations and complain about how it was so hot you could barely move – all you did was sweat the whole time.

You know what? That’s nothing. I mean look at me!

This is what wasting away looks like. This is what it looks like when the weather is too warm for you to function. It wasn’t long ago that I was a healthy individual standing tall and proud as sentry over the house behind me. Night and day I would survey the street and make sure that all was as it should be. Hell, I’d even make time to play with the kids; let them climb around me and throw snowballs at me.

You know what? I didn’t complain. Not even once.

But you people with your lives of luxury? You’re so quick to moan about the wonderful vacation you just had; to pick out the one little negative in what I can only assume was a fantastic getaway. And that’s all I can do is assume because let’s face it, I’m not really cut out for temperate climates, let alone life at the equator.

Oh I’ve seen the pictures and it does look like a little slice of heaven, but that’s as close as I will ever get.

I’ve watched you for the past few days, your toques and mittens abandoned at home and your jackets slightly undone. It’s still below zero, but to you, this is a lovely heat wave. To me, it’s death.

I mean it. Look at me. My eyes are lying on the ground between my legs. They look like a couple of testicles. Hell, the only thing I’ve seen since they dropped was my crooked carrot nose and the stupid chickadees that are using my head as a resting place. It’s depressing I tell you, slumped here in the lawn just wasting away. No fun at all.

Next time you want to complain about the weather, I implore you to think of me, the poor little snowman who is melting away. Better yet, see if you could find my stupid hat. It’s black and dashing.

You get me my hat and I am heading north man, no more of this rain, snow, rain, snow nonsense…

Monday, January 3, 2011

Story-A-Day #53: Quicker By Ski


QUICKER BY SKI

He smoothed a few more lines of wax along the length of the slender skis and leaned them against the back of his car. It was a beautiful day, cool but sunny, and the air was awash in crystalline twinkles of snow and ice. He gazed out over the field, watching the dancing light of the diamond-like snow that sparkled and winked in the waning hours of daylight.

He inhaled deeply, crinkling his nostrils as the cool air burned a path down his throat. He was quivering with the anticipation of the unknown.

He reached into the backseat and pulled out his ski poles, leaning them against the car next to the skis. He then went through the two bags that were neatly arranged in one were his more immediate supplies: rations, matches, some dry kindling, a flashlight, a collapsible shovel, and so forth. In the other was a lightweight mylar tent and heavy duty sleeping bag. He double checked both bags to be sure and took one last look at his map before folding it up and zipping it into the inside pocket of his jacket.

It was time. He was running a little later than he had hoped, but he figured he still had a couple hours of daylight left before he would have to stop and set up camp. He had planned to snowshoe in at first, but the skis would take at least a day or two off his trip.

He waded through the snow to the fence and stepped over it and into the field. He took a moment to secure the skis to his feet, then set off across the glittery expanse of snow. He could see an opening in the trees ahead and angled towards it. There was a path there, buried under the snow, and he intended to follow it as far as the river, which he would then follow to the north.

It should take him about three days total. He would be able to reach his destination, secure the proof that he needed, and make it back to his car by sometime earl on Friday. He had been monitoring the weather network diligently and the forecast was clear until Sunday, but he didn’t want any unexpected surprises.

His skis glided smoothly across the fresh blanket of powdery snow and he entered the trees within moments. The path, much to his relief, was easy to distinguish as it cut through the maples and pines.

The plane was out there somewhere and he had a pretty solid idea of where. When the winter had first arrived, he originally planned to wait until the spring to resume his search. He had already invested too much effort though and he was too close. As it turned out, this was actually perfect. It was definitely quicker by ski so he could be in and out in less time.

By the end of the week, the mystery would be solved, and he would be a hero.